Donald Trump's weak performance at Helsinki was so outrageous that even many of his Republican supporters have expressed outrage or at least embarrassment. Former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh was perhaps the most outraged. When you read the following series of tweets you should keep in mind that he is no Extreme Ithaca Liberal. In fact, during the 2016 campaign Walsh tweeted, "if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket". Walsh is singing a very different tune now.
This press conference is an absolute disgrace. Trump won't even side with America.
What Trump did today was commit treason. He cannot be supported anymore. He is a clear & present danger to America. Republicans can no longer be quiet.
I won't be quiet. I am done with him.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 16, 2018
I just formally renounced my support for him. I will never support him again. https://t.co/EPgvjVF9mT
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 16, 2018
What you saw today was "collusion" on the world stage.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 16, 2018
Trump was a traitor today. I cannot & will not support a traitor.
No decent American should.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 16, 2018
Look, I'm no big deal, but today is the final straw for me. I will never support Trump again. If that makes me a NeverTrumper, so be it.
I am a tea party conservative, that will never change. But Trump was a traitor to this country today. That must not be accepted.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 16, 2018
It is true that while many Republicans were critical of Trump's refusal to believe our Intelligence Community over Putin, few were as outraged as Walsh. But NY-23rd Congressman Tom Reed took a stance that was closer to the other end of the spectrum. Here is the statement he released shortly after Trump's press conference.
Before looking at his press release more closely, it is important to remember two things about Congressman Reed. First, Reed, like most Republican politicians, had a deep distrust of Russia and was looking forward to having a president who would take a more muscular approach towards Putin than President Obama did. Here are some posts he made during his 2016 campaign on his Facebook page. (Don't bother scrolling all the way back to 2016 to see them in the original. Reed has deleted them, but I linked to them in an earlier post and I saved snapshots for future use.)
And the second thing you should know about Reed is that he was one of Trump's earliest supporters for President. Reed announced his support in March 2016, stating, "The United States simply cannot have someone in the White House that will continue the failed foreign policy and economic agenda of Barack Obama." Trump rewarded Reed's loyalty in December by making him a Vice Chair of his transition team
Taking these two facts into consideration, my first thought upon seeing Reed's press release was, "All right--who are you and what have you done to Tom Reed?"
Reed claimed in his press release that there is "no evidence of collusion with any American" (emphasis added). Let's see if that's the case.
Evidence of Collusion Between the Trump Campaign and Russia
I originally included a long section detailing evidence that Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to steal the elections. However, including it here made this article excessively long and I decided it deserved its own article. Please read Using Occam's Razor To Cut Through the Claim That There Was No Collusion Between Trump and Russia. You'll see at least 12 pieces of evidence, plus bonus material, that make a strong case that Donald Trump DID steal the election with the help of the Russians. There are just too many damn coincidences to believe otherwise.
The next section discusses the likelihood that Putin is blackmailing Trump. It is duplicated in my article discussing Collusion between Trump and Russia. You can read it hear or in the article on collusion.
Even If There Was No Collusion Between Trump and Russia To Steal the 2016 Election . . .
It looks like Putin has something over on Donald Trump. Donald Trump looked weak next to Putin. A growing number of Americans are beginning to wonder if Putin is blackmailing Trump. It seems unlikely that the infamous pee tape mentioned in Christopher Steele's Dossier is real. But what about money laundering? Wired Magazine recently published a detailed report examining just how money laundering works. The report concludes:
That so many of the transactions and behaviors of the Trump business empire and Michael Cohen’s empire appear to hew so closely to the well-known patterns and stages of money laundering deeply troubles [Arit] Sharma [a counter-terrorist financial expert who used to work at the Treasury Department].
“It falls into fact patterns that we’ve seen in other areas of Russian and Eastern European organized crime,” he says. “We’re staring at a government—that goes right to the top—that engages in very way of doing business and the exact same fact patterns that we set these tools up to combat. That’s mind-boggling to me.”
And if Trump did launder money it is likely that Putin has got something he can use to blackmail Trump with. Adam Davidson describes the systemic use of Kompramat (the sistema) that informally regulates both business and politics in Russia in his must-read article, "A Theory of Trump Kompramat". Keith Darden, an international-relations professor at American University, told Davidson that Russia is a "blackmail state". Davidson writes:
The scenario that, to my mind, makes the most sense of the given facts and requires the fewest fantastical leaps is that, a decade or so ago, Trump, naïve, covetous, and struggling for cash, may have laundered money for a business partner from the former Soviet Union or engaged in some other financial crime. This placed him, unawares, squarely within sistema, where he remained, conducting business with other members of a handful of overlapping Central Asian networks. Had he never sought the Presidency, he may never have had to come to terms with these decisions. But now he is much like everyone else in sistema. He fears there is kompromat out there—maybe a lot of it—but he doesn’t know precisely what it is, who has it, or what might set them off.
Trump and many of his defenders have declared his businesses, including those in the former Soviet Union, to be off-limits to the Mueller investigation. They argue that the special counsel should focus only on the possibility of explicit acts of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This neatly avoids the reality of sistema. As Pavlovsky wrote, “Under Putin, sistema has become a method for making deals among businesses, powerful players, and the people. Business has not taken over the state, nor vice versa; the two have merged in a union of total and seamless corruption.”
Has Donald Trump laundered money for the Russians? Is that why he won't release his taxes? Something just doesn't seem right. And it is not just Americans who think so. Even some commentators on Russian state TV have questioned Trump's strange performance at Helsinki. One host on the Russian show, "60 Minutes" remarked, "It is very bizarre, you can’t bash your own country like that – especially when you’re the president." To which co-host Olga Skabeeva replied, "When Trump says our relations are bad because of American foolishness and stupidity, he really smells like an agent of the Kremlin" (Translation provided by Rusian media analyst, Julia Davis). Davis wrote a detailed article that looked at Russians bragging about stealing the election or owning Trump. It is well worth reading.
If Donald Trump did, in fact, help Russians launder money and if Putin does, in fact, have dirt he can use to blackmail Trump, then the American people need to know about it. Our national security may depend on our knowing about it. And the only way we will be able to find out if such blackmail material exists is if Robert Mueller is allowed to continue his investigation undisturbed. Why Tom Reed, who took such a courageous stance in opposing Russian aggression in 2016, would want to shut down an investigation that could uncover evidence of material that Putin could use to blackmail our President, is beyond me.
Why the Hurry?
The FBI opened its investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia in July 2016. Mueller was not appointed special prosecutor until May 2017. So this investigation is a bit over a year old to two years old, depending on how you count it.
Vox reports that Mueller “has either indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 32 people and three companies --that we know of”
By contrast, the Benghazi investigation lasted over two and a half years and returned no indictments. This contrast is even more striking when you consider the Mueller investigation is facing challenges not faced by the Benghazi investigation. It is FAR more complex, involving hundreds of actors involved in events over a much longer timeline and a much greater geographical area. Many of the actors have, shall we say, been less than forthcoming in telling us about the roles they have played. The Watergate investigation has taught us to "follow the money", but following the money is extremely difficult with the complex web of shell companies and contracts using pseudonyms that Donald Trump and Michael Cohen have used, apparently to hide the money trail. And certain Republicans appear to be doing all that they can to interfere with or derail Mueller’s investigation.
Considering all the complexities and the obstacles the Mueller investigation has faced, it has been remarkably productive. Even Trey Gowdy, who joins Reed in wanting to shut the Mueller investigation down quickly, acknowledges that the investigation is not a witch hunt.
So why the hurry to shut the investigation down? Reed claims shutting down the investigation "will restore faith in our democratic electoral process." But Reed is delusional if he thinks shutting down the investigation will bring the country together. A VERY substantial portion of the population thinks Trump either colluded with the Russians or Putin has dirt that he is using to blackmail Trump. Shutting down the investigation prematurely will only make it look like Trump and his Republican supporters have something to hide. There are over 900 rallies scheduled across the country if the Mueller investigation is shut down. (See rally plans here). The ONLY way this country has a chance to heal is if Mueller's investigation exonerates Trump of wrongdoing. If Reed truly believes that Trump has done nothing seriously wrong then it is hard to undrstand why he thinks shutting down the investigation will do more to calm the nation down than letting the investigation proceed to its natural conclusion
Advice To Tom Reed (And Others Trying To Kill The Mueller Investigation)
Former REPUBLICAN Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wrote wise words that Tom Reed should heed. This was written before Mueller indicted 12 Russians military spies for hacking into the DNC, before Trump's disgraceful performance at Helsinki, and before Russian spy Maria Butina was arrested for using the NRA as a conduit to infiltrate and influence high ranking Republican officials without registering as a foreign agent. These words were important then--they are even more important now.
I’m a Republican because I stand for small government and also, as a physician, for the dignity of every life. But I am also a Republican because I believe in the rule of law. Republicans must fight for that principle today — even if it means pushing back against a Republican administration. As a party, we can’t let the president or his allies erode the independence of the Justice Department or public trust in the vital work of law enforcement. That would be true even if the stakes were much lower, but it is overwhelmingly so when it comes to investigating foreign interference in our elections. Congress must ensure that Mueller is able to do his job without interference or intimidation. . . .
It isn’t easy to tell a president of your own party that he is wrong. But the assault on Mueller’s investigation does not help the president or his party. When Trump talks about firing the special counsel or his power to pardon himself, he makes it seem as though he has something to hide. The president must remember that only Mueller’s exoneration can lift the cloud hanging over the White House.
The special counsel’s investigation is not about Trump. It is about our national security. Every American should be rooting for Mueller’s success in determining precisely how Russia interfered in our fundamental democratic process. I had no illusions about the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and I have none about Putin now. Mueller’s most recent court filings indicate that Putin is seeking to meddle in this year’s elections. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray — all Trump appointees confirmed by the Republican-led Senate — have also warned of foreign interference. We should heed these warnings and empower Mueller to see his important work through to its conclusion.
George Will, a lifelong conservative pundit and DEFINITELY NOT an Extreme Ithaca Liberal, wrote this about Trump's performance in Helsinki.
Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. We shall learn from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on).
Will concluded his article by observing
The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance [with Putin] — is not. . . . But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.
Perhaps we shouldn't judge Congressman Reed too harshly if he has been un unable to see any evidence of collutson. I listed 10 pieces of evidence--plus one bonus piece--that point towards collusion. But if Reed only focused on one or two of these pieces he might not have seen enough of a pattern to conclude that which is obvious to someone who has been looking at the bigger picture. It is highly unlikely that Reed was aware that Russians were bragging of controling Trump or stealing the election (point 9) And when he issued his "no collusion" press, release Reed was certainly unaware that before he was inaugurated, Donald Trump had been given a detailed, specific intelligence briefing that Putin had personally approved a cyberhacking campaign in order to get Trump elected (bonus point). That information didn't come out until after his Reed issued his "no collusion" press release, so Reed should be excused for not knowing about this. But I will be sending a link to this article to the Reed campaign and I will tweet links to this article to Reed and his assistant, Nick Weinstein. If Reed does not change his mind and support the Mueller investigation then voters will be left to wonder why. Is it possible that either Trump or Putin have dirt on Reed? Have rich donors told Reed they will support him only as long as he backs Trump? I suspect we will get answers to these questions around the same time that we get to see Trump's tax returns.
Here is a video of Katy Tur interviewing Tom Reed about Donald Trump's Helsinki performance.
Update 7/29/19: I sent a link to this article to Tom Reed via his online contact form. I also tweeted links to his Twitter account as well as to the account of his campaign manager, Nick Weinstein. Here is the reply I received on July 27.
As you can see, it is a form letter, and not a particularly complete form letter. It mentions the indictment of 12 Russian citizens--that would be referring to Mueller's indictment of 12 Russians for hacking the DNC and Podesta computers andfor publishing the material via Guccifer 2.0, DC Leaks, and WikiLeaks. It does not mention the earlier indictment of 13 Russians and the Internet Research Agency for conducting a campaign on social meda to manipulate American voters. Nor does it mention the indictment of Russian spy, Maria Butina. Though it wasn't Mueller who actually indicted Butina, her indictment suggests there is much more to uncover in discovering how Russia has illegally influenced our elections and our politics.
Update 8/5/18: Donald Trump just admitted that the purpose of the infamous Trump Tower meeting was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Everyone with an IQ above a houseplant already knew that this was the reason for the meeting, but it is amazing to see that Trump would admit it.
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
Update 9/24/18: I removed a section that discussed Trump's collusion with Russia and linked to it as a separate article.